Around three dozen elementary and high school students from across the North Shore gathered at Grace Avenue Park in Great Neck on Sunday to condemn acts of violence and intolerance against Asian-Americans.
The rally was spearheaded by Great Neck North High School sophomore Anjelica Wu along with students from the Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn, Sewanhaka, Glen Cove and Herricks school districts.
Wu said her main goal was to spur change in the North Hempstead community in light of the number of recent discriminatory acts towards Asian-Americans throughout the nation. Despite cultural teachings of “sweeping things under the rug,” Wu said, people can no longer continue to turn a blind eye to what is happening.
“When I watch the videos of our elderly being pushed to the ground, beaten, treated like nothing, I was furious and disgusted,” Wu said. “But I felt another pain when I saw how no one helped her, no one stood up for them, and no one seemed to care.”
Several videos have shown elderly Asian-Americans being pushed, kicked and thrown to the ground in New York City and San Francisco since February. Also, in March shootings in spas in the Atlanta area left eight people dead, including six Asian women.
Great Neck South High junior Rosanna Gao spoke on the stereotypes Asian-American women faced in day-to-day life as well as in the entertainment industry.
“I am not your virus. I am not your model minority. I am not your fetish. I am not your scapegoat. I am human,” Gao said.
Also in attendance were Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck) and Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, also from Great Neck.
The two cited the collaborative efforts by the students and praised all in attendance for joining as a unified group to condemn acts of hatred.
“We know here on the North Shore that we’re very close to the city, and anything could happen at any time,” Birnbaum said. “We really must all stand united and show each other that we are one community.”
“In the Town of North Hempstead, just like here in Great Neck … we are one community, and we are stronger together,” Lurvey said.
The group of roughly 40 students and adults took to the streets while chanting calls for peace and to stop hatred directed at Asian-Americans.
Months before the event, the Great Neck school district was the subject of a letter from nearly 40 parents reporting that younger students of Asian descent had been asked if they ate bats and were called “COVID-19 spreaders” by other students. District Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said at the time that no anti-Asian incidents had occurred on school grounds.
Officials said more than 3,800 anti-Asian incidents were reported across the nation in 2020. There was also a 149 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the 16 largest cities in the U.S. in 2020, officials said.